‘one of Britain’s finest novelists’ (Sunday Telegraph)

‘an expert plotter’ (Scotsman)

‘a writer of addictive emotional thrillers’ (Independent)


1. Do you plan your work, or go where the muse takes you? 

I tend to have a vague idea of the shape I want a novel to fill. I read and think and wait until I have a definite voice, or scene, and then I start writing in the hope that the story will begin to coalesce. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn’t. I never plan thoroughly and have only once known what the end of a novel would be before I got there. But even then, I had no idea how I’d get there.


2. What is your writing costume of choice?

I usually wear whatever I walked my dog in. If I’ve got soaked on my walk, I change into yoga pants and a big cardi. Nothing glamorous!


3. What three things appear in every one of your books? 

Sausages, the moon, whiskers.


4. Where do you do most of your writing?

When I’m in Edinburgh on a sofa-bed in my study. In Orkney, on my bed – or actually in it if it’s cold. 


5. What fictional character/s do you identify with?

Many of Alice Munro’s women, or Lorrie Moore’s or Elizabeth Strout’s – plus any from the earlier Elizabeths (see below). I could make a list pages long. The truth is, I can identify with almost any well-drawn character – it’s the skill of the writer that makes this magic happen.


6. Lark or owl? What’s your best time for writing?

Definitely lark, though not crack-of-dawn lark. The morning chorus is well over by the time I’m ready. And after about mid-afternoon, I’m hopeless.


7. Who do you share your work-in-progress with?

I am not a big sharer. I fear that if I reveal something before it’s ready, it might shrivel and die. Only when I have a sturdy first draft will I show it to my (writer) husband and a couple of trusted (writer) friends.


8. Silence, whale song, prog rock? What’s the soundtrack for your writing?

I’m best with silence, or quiet background noise. When my neighbour in the flat below was doing noisy renovations I tried soothing music on headphones, which worked all right; but I prefer to be able to hear what’s going on around me. With headphones on I feel as if someone might creep up on me. 


9. Which part of the writing process do you like best?

Definitely the second draft onwards. The first draft is so stressful. Will I ever get there? Will I (literally) lose the plot? Or forget what the point of the whole thing is? To have the text all there and ready to be smoothed and polished, cut, embellished, and to do the last little bits of satisfying research – that, to me, is luxury.


10. What’s your main distraction/procrastination?

Email, WhatsApp etc. I have to switch everything off if I’m really going to concentrate. Sometimes I have a sudden urge to pluck my eyebrows or carry out some other primping activity, which is hard to resist. 


11. What book are you reading at the moment?

I always have an audiobook on the go as well as the one I’m reading. Currently I’m listening to I Used to Live Here Once: The Haunted Life of Jean Rhys by Miranda Seymour and reading A Different Sound: Stories by Mid-Century Women Writers selected by Lucy Scholes. 


12. Social media – friend or foe?

I have mixed feelings. Of course, it’s fantastically useful and can be fun – but it’s also devilishly distracting and even dangerous. I am an intermittent and inefficient dabbler.


13. What woman writer/s do you most admire?

Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Bowen, Elizabeth von Armin, Elizabeth Jane Howard and several writers, not necessarily called Elizabeth, from the last century. Recently I’ve been relaxing by hoovering up everything by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’ve come late to the wonderful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and am looking forward to reading more of her work.


14. What do you see when you look up from your work?

A yoga mat, a corner crammed with toys for visiting grandchildren, an overflowing bookcase. Generally, a bit of a mess.


15. How do you tackle writer’s block?

What’s that? Ha! When I am forced to admit that such a thing exists, I don’t compel myself to write but do something practical instead so that I can at least achieve a sense of satisfaction. A freshly baked cake or a clean kitchen floor boosts the morale, and sometimes, during vigorous scrubbing, the block will be shaken away.


16. What is your writing beverage of choice?

Strong black tea with plenty of milk.


17. What has changed most in your work as you’ve become more experienced?

I write less, and although I love it just as much I don’t feel quite as driven. I have grown better at trusting the process. I have learned from experience that a healthy dash of doubt is integral to the creative process. If I didn’t doubt at any point, I’d be worried.


18. What’s your secret cultural indulgence?

The Dog House on Channel 4. It’s a reality show about people rehoming dogs and it makes me weep every time.


19. What single thing would make your writing life better?

I’d like to have been born before the 1920s and made my living as a novelist in the mid-20th Century. Publishing was so much more civilised then and nobody expected you to be an instant best-seller, or a best-seller at all. You could be well-respected without having to take the world by storm. And I might have met one or more of the Elizabeths!


20. What one piece of advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Embrace doubt as part of the process. And remember to think of writing as serious play rather than work – then be grateful that you get to play for a living. 



LESLEY GLAISTER has written 17 critically acclaimed novels, many short stories, one stage play and numerous radio plays. Her first novel Honour Thy Father won the Somerset Maugham Award and a Betty Trask Award, Now You See Me was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for fiction, and Easy Peasy was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize. She mentors novelists and teaches creative writing in a variety of settings, including most recently as a Senior Lecturer at the University of St Andrews. Lesley was also one of the core tutors at last year’s Mslexia Novel School.

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